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Atomic TV postponed
13 Aug 1998 :

Bob Geldof's proposals for Atomic TV, a twenty four hour music video cable service with six hours of programming repeated four times within a twenty four hour period, to be launched in Ireland has been postponed.

The Former Boomtown Rats star planned to bypass Irelands licensing laws by broadcasting Atomic TV via cable, MMDS and satellite effectively securing what amounted to a national television license without any of the requirements of such a license such as the editorial and financial conditions applied to other national broadcasters. The Studio would be based in Dublin. But overseas investor are reported to be nervous of the legal consequences and the extra expense at this time and wish to wait until the know who will buy cablelink which is critical for the success of the station.

Geldof approached the Irish Government a year ago with his plan which was backed by Planet 24, his company which makes the Big Breakfast programme for Channel 4 in the UK. Politically the channel was attractive to Irish politicians receiving the backing of both the present and previous ministers for Art, Heritage, Culture, Gaeltacht and the Islands since it would be an Irish channel, generate employment in both the music and TV industries and be associated with Bob Geldof. The Department raised no objections and suggested to Dept. of Transport Energy and Communications, which had responsibility for Cablelink at the time, that authorisation be issued to enable Cablelink to carry the channel, and wrote to the Independent Radio and Television Commission for their views, so far so good.

The IRTC has no statutory control over Irish broadcasts to carried on cable or MMDS but expressed itself strongly because Atomic TV would place stations licensed by the IRTC at a "significant commercial disadvantage" and would "distort the advertising market for broadcasters in general". The IRTC pointed out that no regulatory frame work existed for projects such as Atomic TV. The rapid developments in the telecommunications markets with the establishment of The Office of Director of Telecommunications Regulator whose office now covers these areas and amalgamated the different regulatory functions in this area and released its first report recently and the decisions made in regard to digital television added to the sale of Cablelink have all created a situation of flux. Although the problem brought to light by Geldof's proposal are being addressed and some clarity is emerging the changing structures and relations have created a situation in which it is impossible for Atomic TV to move ahead until the market settles somewhat.

Martin Goswami, Atomic TV's chief executive told the Sunday Times that the company is exploring other countries and opening an Atomic TV station in Romania next month to join the one it operates in Poland. The station's strategy is to work closely with advertisers in developing music programmes for the youth market which also delivers strong product marketing. The industry publication - Inproduction has worked out that a time quota of 15% for advertising would be set against the total 24 hour period and that advertising would not exceed 20% (12 minutes) in any one hour. A total of 3 hours and thirty six minutes of advertising could be broadcast each day, and six hours of programming. The station would feature local bands as well as international acts.

A licensing application is no longer before the Irish authorities. Goswami said they would wait until they saw who bought Cablelink before reconsidering an Irish station.

Michael Mc Mahon 13/8/98

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